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Fitness at 40+
My Dramatic Weight-Loss Reinvention After 40
I spent my life battling my weight. Here's what I finally found that works for me
I have always struggled with my weight. From the time I was a 4th-grader and boys started teasing me with the hurtful nickname, “Stubby Beth,” I was always fixated on keeping up with the skinny girls and squeezing into a pair of tight-fitting jeans. And trust me, growing up in the ’70s and ’80s during the Sergio Valente and Jordache phenomenon certainly didn’t help.
Throughout my teens and twenties, I managed to maintain a comfortable weight because I was continually on-the-go. I would rollerblade from Central Park West to my office as a publicist for The Ricki Lake Show on West 37th Street. I would take cardio dance classes at Bally Total Fitness on the Upper West Side. I would even rollerblade on the weekends to the Wollman rink with my ice skates strapped over my shoulder, put my blades in a locker, and then ice skate by myself for the next two hours.
From there, I discovered spinning at New York Sports Club and would race home after work to slip on my bicycle shorts and jam out to some Janet Jackson hits. I was seriously obsessed with exercise, in a good way of course, but obsessed nonetheless.
Every single one of those experiences shared one common thread — while I may have been exercising, I loved every second of it and was in the best shape of my life.
And then I got married.
And had two kids.
And exercise became more of a chore and the weight started creeping up. I have always had a sweet tooth so no matter what I do every day, I have to end it with dessert. When you work out every day, burning off a frozen yogurt topped with carob chips isn’t really an issue. But then add a few glasses of wine to the equation, and suddenly, all bets are off.
Since I was pretty adept at dieting as a Weight Watchers lifetime member, when I hit my thirties and forties, I veered away from old reliable (WW) and began trying every diet on the planet to control those yo-yo weight woes. During that decade, I dove into Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem, the Zone, and eventually Isagenix, and, sadly, that particular plan led me to put on more weight than I ever had in my life.
While each plan helped me reach my weight loss goal, I’d eventually drift back to those poor eating habits again, and the pounds would pile back even faster.
Reinventing the Body After 40: Finding What Works for You
Right before my 50th birthday, I was approaching one of my heaviest weights ever. None of my clothes fit, and I was busting out of my size 10 loose-fitting jeans and was this close to moving up to a size 12.
I started blaming the clothing stores I shopped in for cutting their designs slimmer rather than facing up to the harsh reality that I had let my weight balloon out of control. While I still took spin classes on my Peloton, I wasn’t burning enough calories to make up for the amount of food and wine I was ingesting with reckless abandon.
After spending one morning trying on five different outfits with none of them fitting, I met up with a good friend who had lost 25 pounds on a program she was following and I was instantly intrigued. I took one look at her, threw my hands up, and asked, “How do I join?”
My friend connected me to her health coach and after speaking with her for less than 15 minutes, I was ready to focus on reclaiming the old me. I ordered the Optavia starter kit that came with portion-controlled “fuelings” that are low in carbs (about 15 grams each) and contain vitamins and minerals, protein, and probiotics, but no colors, flavors, or sweeteners from artificial sources. The fuelings consist of powdered foods that can be transformed into cakes, waffles, cookies, brownies, ice cream, and shakes. There are also health bars, crunchers, and lunch mixes ranging from soups, to chili, to mashed potatoes, to mac and cheese.
Best of all, each fueling is nutritionally equivalent so you can substitute any one for any other. In addition to the fuelings, you also have a healthy lunch or dinner called a “lean and green” meal that consists of a protein, three greens, and healthy fats that are determined by the type of protein you select. Plus, like any sensible nutrition plan, you need to drink at least 64–80 ounces of water per day.
For those of you who don’t know about Optavia yet, it’s one of the fastest-growing health programs on the market. It’s an incredibly successful multi-level marketing company — grossing over $1 billion in 2020 — that was recently featured in The New York Times and has been inundated with orders, with thousands of people joining every day.
Focusing on Healthy Habits
Always an early adapter (I bought a Peloton before most people knew what it was), I joined at a time when no one had heard about the program and began losing slowly because I wanted to do it my way — that included drinking wine and eating sweets. My coach would call my approach “ish-ing” my way through the program.
Sure I was losing weight, but not as fast as a lot of other people and I just couldn’t understand why. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that I had also started a brand new artisanal marshmallow business and was eating my Optavia desserts, like a fudge brownie or chocolate chip cookie, and topping them with marshmallows. I mean they are fat-free, aren’t they?
When the pandemic hit, my little marshmallow business went belly up and it finally hit me that now was as good a time as any to focus on losing weight. After I put away my Hamilton Beach mixer and all that corn syrup that I used to make the ‘mallows, I turned my attention back to my health program and the pounds started coming off.
Before long, my clothes started to fit again. As I got closer to my goal, friends and family started noticing that I was shrinking while they were growing — because during lockdown they were eating everything in sight. They wanted to know what secret weight loss program I had found that finally was turning things around for me.
Total Transformation: Becoming a Health Coach
By June 2020, I had shed nearly 20 pounds, and at that time a good friend said she wanted to try the program too. That’s when I decided to share the love and become a health coach. I attended webinars about the program, read books, and even took a nutrition certification exam. I walked my friend through Optavia and spoke with her each week as she steadily began to shed pounds and inches. I began signing clients, and before long, I was helping them reach their weight loss goals.
When my first client jettisoned 30 pounds in just three months, I really became interested in the science aspect of the program. I wanted to know why this time around, it was easier to lose and maintain a weight loss and realized that if I just followed the program by eating six times a day and consuming at least 64–80 ounces of water, I’d be fitting into my skinny jeans for life. I also realized that being able to hold others accountable and guide them when they are struggling with their weight is incredibly gratifying.
I even helped my 81-year-old dad take off more than 26 pounds. He is as svelte now as he was in the Army, back in the ’60s.
I finally reached my weight goal, and after transitioning to Optavia’s maintenance program, I lost another 10 pounds!
Today, I am the same size I was when I was rollerblading to work, ice skating at Wollman Rink, and taking dance classes at Bally’s. Except I no longer have to work out like a crazy person to stay there. The key was learning how to eat the right foods that would properly fuel my body every day. Today, I carry my water bottle with me like it’s another appendage.
I eat every 2.5–3 hours and I am super mindful of what I eat. I no longer diet for short-term milestones like a Bar Mitzvah, wedding, or high school reunion. I eat properly for life.
Reinventing the Body: Check Your Mindset
This year, I’ll be celebrating my 25th wedding anniversary and the crazy goal I have set for myself is to fit back into my wedding dress. The dress sits high atop my linen closet, and I haven’t cracked open the box since I sent it to be dry-cleaned a quarter-century ago. But I will take it out of the box soon, slip it on, and see if I can pull the zipper up.
And while I may not have an occasion to wear that dress again, I’ve realized that when we tell ourselves we’ll never be the weight we were in our twenties we are deluding ourselves. You can absolutely be the weight you were in your twenties or your thirties! It starts with your mindset and then it takes discipline, an openness to change, and an accountability partner who can cheer you on and guide you as you finally hit that weight goal and stay there for life.
I went from a size 10 to a size 0. I no longer blame Ann Taylor or White House Black Market for cutting their clothes too small. Instead, I’m having a blast inside those fitting rooms and my health stats have been amazing too. While I never thought I would go from making marshmallows to making healthy bodies, I’ve learned that you should never say never. Ever.
Beth Feldman is Senior Vice President of Communications for the CW Network and Vice President of Comms for the Networks division of Nexstar Media Inc. While she’s no longer a health coach due to her job, she still incorporates the healthy habits she’s learned into her daily routine. (Editor’s Note: Optavia is the plan that worked for this writer. This does not assume CoveyClub endorsement of this plan.)